We report on a new plasma startup scenario in the gas dynamic trap (GDT) magnetic mirror device. The primary 5 MW neutral beam injection (NBI) plasma heating system fires into a sufficiently dense plasma target ('seed plasma'), which is commonly supplied by an arc plasma generator. In the reported experiments, a different approach to seed plasma generation is explored. One of the channels of the electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) heating system is used to ionize the neutral gas and build up the density of plasma to a level suitable for NBI capture. After a short transition of approximately 1 ms the discharge becomes essentially similar to a standard one initiated by the plasma gun. This paper presents the discharge scenario and experimental data on the seed plasma evolution during ECRH, along with the dependencies on incident microwave power, magnetic configuration and pressure of a neutral gas. The characteristics of the consequent high-power NBI discharge are studied and differences from the conventional scenario are discussed. A theoretical model describing the ECR breakdown and the seed plasma accumulation in a large-scale mirror trap is developed on the basis of the GDT experiment.